صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

PRIDE VITIATES THE JUDGMENT.

207

JULY 18.

Pride, and arrogancy, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

THE proud man, lifting himself far above the rest of mankind, and, from this imaginary exaltation, looking down, with the cold unsocial feelings of affected indifference and disdain, resembles a spectator, raised so high above the surface of the earth, amidst eternal snows, as to be insensible to the loveliest and most enchanting scenes of nature. We are told by travellers, that, on those beautiful summer evenings, when the clouds unrol their rich draperies before the setting sun, and the western skies resemble an extensive shore covered with sands of gold--from the summit of the highest mountains, nothing of all this glorious array is to be seen; viewed from a station so elevated, those shining fields, that seem composed of rubies and gems of various lustre, spread over the blue expanse of heaven, disappear; in their place, the dusky vapours and clouds beneath, assume a grey and leaden coloured aspect, like a vast lake; which shews that these celestial decorations, that no pencil can imitate, were made for the level of the earth, were designed to embellish and delight the habitations of men below.

In like manner, if we contemplate the human world, the society of mankind, from the unnatural elevation and distance at which pride would place us, all the beauty and interest of the scene vanishes: our fellow creatures, looked down upon from so preposterous a height, dwindle into insignificance; absorbed in self importance, the mind is lost to all that is truly delightful in society; and absolutely self entombed in a dreary, magnificent solitude. Would you taste the charm of social happiness, you must descend into the vale of humility; you must live, as a man, among men ; you must contemplate your fellow-beings on a fair equality. If you view human nature in that advantageous light in which it was intended, you will see it has in it much that is admirable and almost divine. To the clear eye of candour, the mist disperses, which pride and spleen. had raised; and, in its place, what rich variety of moral and intellectual brightness! How many smiling scenes of virtue and happiness! sometimes, alas! overcast with stormy passions. Yet even the errours and faults, that shade the living landscape, are beheld by candid, self reflecting minds, not without some sentiment of fellow feeling; and whithersoever we turn, we cannot but experience, if we think rightly, either the warmth of approbation, or the tenderness of pity. On the whole, we shall perceive the rays of the Creator's glory, in nothing more resplendent, than in the formation of his rational offspring-the express image and likeness of his divine intelligence,-hence we shall learn at once to reverence and love the partakers of our common nature, and to adore their great Original. All derive their existence from the all-wise and all-perfect Being in all, his marvellous workmanship, his paternal care, though in various degrees, are manifest-the moral world, as well as the natural, being subject to partial and transient shades-but, in all their changes, bearing more or less the same celestial signature of wisdom and benevolence,-and never utterly abandoned by the great Parent mind-the unchangeable and everlasting Fountain of Light and Happiness.

208

CHARITABLE JUDGMENTS AND CONDUCT.
JULY 19.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind.

UPON the affectionate and ingenuous heart of youth, what salutary impressions and delightful effects flow from the candid paternal behaviour of those who undertake to be their guides and guardians! That best and wisest of the school of Socrates, Plato, had a nephew, a very dissolute young man, whose parents pursued him with reproaches and anger, till he was driven almost to extremities; upon which, the amiable philosopher, his affectionate uncle, was induced to take him under his own care. He employed neither severity nor menaces. He was uniformly mild and gentle. He trusted to the invincible force of kindness, and a good example, upon a heart naturally ingenuous. By these means he succeeded so far, as to infuse into the youth the utmost shame for his past faults; the highest reverence and love both for virtue and for his instructor. And can it be doubted, that the same unaffected goodness and generosity will in almost every instance, exercise the same sovereign sway over the heart? While man retains the image of his Maker, he has surely a brother's claim to observance and respect, from his fellowman; which to violate or overlook, would be unjust and impious ; and must operate like an untimely frost or withering blast, on the fair shoots of social virtue and social comfort. Deprived of external nurture, and responsive co-operation, sentiments of kindness may indeed subsist, like plants in an unfriendly climate: but they cannot be expected to grow to their natural size, to diffuse around their beautiful shade, or bring forth their delicious fruit to its full flavour and perfection.-There is one great example of transcendent virtue,-Jesus Christ, apologizing and praying for his murderers upon the cross. Not all that weight of anguish, which bowed his sacred head to the dust, could subdue the constancy, or shake the benevolence of his heavenly mind. But the virtues of the generality of men, it is to be feared, are not of so firm a texture, as to be capable of grappling with such formidable opposition. They demand all the aid and encouragement that sympathy and gratitude, and reciprocal esteem can give ; and it is unquestionably our dutyby the mutual exercise of candour and kindnesss-to sow the seeds of harmony, "to provoke one another to love and good works."

How greatly would it assist us, in the exercise of candour and charity, to be conscious of conciliating the esteem and complacency of our brethren! Kindness begets gratitude; and gratitude reacts in producing increase of kindness. Would you enjoy the comfort of thinking well of your fellow beings,--study to deserve their esteem and their affection.

If, then, nothing is more pleasant, nothing more becoming, nothing more just, for a man amongst men, than a charitable disposition, and a generous, indulgent interpretation of each other's actions; let us, take care to lay in our own breast the foundation of this excellent temper. The censorious often condemn what has no existence but in their own gloomy thoughts; they mistake the reflection of their own likeness, for the real likeness of their fellow creatures. Act rightly and feel rightly yourself, and you will be little inclined to draw such a picture of the world, as diametrically contradicts your own feelings and experience.

[blocks in formation]

JULY 20.

Men who have hazarded their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE evangelists were plain, honest, artless, unlearned men, in very humble occupations of life, and utterly incapable of inventing or carrying on such a refined and complicated system of fraud, as the christian religion must have been if it was not true. There are, besides, the strongest marks of fairness, candour, simplicity and truth, throughout the whole of their narratives. Their greatest enemies have never attempted to throw the least stain upon their characters; and how then can they be supposed capable of so gross an imposition, as that of asserting and propagating the most impudent fiction? They could gain by it neither pleasure, profit nor power. On the contrary, it brought upon them the most dreadful evils, and even death itself. If, therefore, they were impostors, they were so without any motive, and without any advantage; nay, contrary to every motive and every advantage that usually influence the actions of men. They preached a religion which forbids falsehood, under pain of eternal punishment; and yet, on this supposition, they supported that religion by falsehood; and whilst they were guilty of the basest and most useless knavery themselves, they were taking infinite pains, and going through the greatest labour and sufferings, in order to teach honesty to all mankind. Is this credible? Is this possible? Is not this a mode of acting so contrary to all experience, to all the principles of human nature, and to all the usual motives of human conduct, as to exceed the utmost bounds of belief, and to compel every reasonable man to reject at once so monstrous a supposition ?

Take St. Paul as an example. He could have no rational motive to become a disciple of Christ, unless he sincerely believed in him. If an enemy should object to the other apostles, and say— they went too far with Christ when alive, to desert him after his death-this can by no means be said of St. Paul. On the contrary, whatever force there may be in that way of reasoning, it all tends to convince us that St. Paul must naturally have continued a Jew, and an enemy of Christ Jesus. If they were engaged on one side, he was strongly engaged on the other. If shame withheld them from changing sides, much more ought it to have stopt him, who, being of a much higher education and rank in life than they, had more credit to lose, and must be supposed to have been vastly more sensible to that sort of shame. The only difference was, that they, by quitting their Master after his death, might have preserved themselves; whereas he, by quitting the Jews, and taking up the cross of Christ, certainly brought on his own destruction.

As, therefore, no rational motive appears for St. Paul's embracing the faith of Christ, without having been really convinced of the truth of it; but, on the contrary, every thing concurred to deter him from acting that part, one might very justly conclude, that when a man of his understanding embraced that faith, he was in reality convinced of the truth of it, and that, by consequence, he was not an impostor, who said what he knew to be false, with an intent to deceive.

Sure I must fight, if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord;

I'll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by thy word

[ocr errors]

210

EXCELLENCE OF CHRISTIANITY.

JULY 21.

The doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me.-But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.

THE excellency of the doctrines contained in the sacred scriptures is an evidence of their divine authority. This is a fact which has great force, independently of other considerations. Thus let us suppose the author of the gospel, which goes under St. Matthew's name, was not known; and that it was unsupported by the writers of the primitive times; yet such is the unaffected simplicity of the narrations, the purity of the doctrines, and the sincere piety and goodness of the sentiments, that it carries its own authority with it. And the same thing may be said in general of the books of the New Testament: so it seems evident to me, that, if there was no other book in the world besides the Bible, a man could not reasonably doubt the truth of the revealed religion. The mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart.' Men's writings and discourses must receive a tincture from their real thoughts, desires, and designs. It is impossible to play the hypocrite in every word and expression. This is a matter of common daily observation, that cannot be called in question; and the more any one thinks upon it, or attends to what passes in himself or others, to the history of the human thoughts, words, and actions, and their necessary mutual connections, i. e. to the history of association, the more clearly will he see it. We may conclude therefore, even if all other arguments were set aside, that the authors of the books of the New Testament, whoever they were, cannot have made a false claim to divine authority.

But there is also another method of inferring the divine authority of the scriptures, from the excellence of the doctrine contained therein. For the scriptures contain doctrines concerning God, providence, a future state, the duty of man, &c. far more pure and sublime than can any ways be accounted for from the natural powers of men, so circumstanced as the sacred writers were. That the reader may see this in a clearer light, let him compare the several books of the New Testament with the cotemporary writers amongst the Greeks and Romans, who could not have less than the natural powers of the human mind; but might have, over and above, some traditional hints derived ultimately from revelation. Let him consider whether it be possible to suppose, that Jewish shepherds, fishermen, &c. should, both before and after the rise of heathen philosophy, so far exceed the men of the greatest abilities and accomplishments in other nations, by any other means than divine communications. Nay, we may say, that no writers, from the invention of letters to the present times, are equal to the penmen of the books of the New Testament in true excellence, utility, force and dignity; which is surely such an internal criterion of their divine authority, as ought not to be, and perhaps never is, resisted by those who have duly considered these books.

Christianity discloses the character of God in all its paternal benignity; developes the moral nature of man and the duties which grow out of it; presents the most reasonable offers of pardon and final acceptance; and, at last, rends the veil of the future before us, and opens beyond the grave an eternal heritage for man. Such views are worthy of God; and shall we neglect them?

PIOUS MEN INVITED TO MISSIONARY LABOURS.

JULY 22.

211

Come over into Macedonia and help us.

LET your charity begin at home, but do not let it end there. Do good to your family and connexions, and if you please, to your party; but after this, look abroad. Look at the universal church, and, forgetting its divisions, be a catholic christian-look at your country, and be a patriot-look at mankind, and be a philanthropist.

My impression is, that our own country now calls for extraordinary exertions. Remember the long list of towns in neighbouring states, besides those beyond the mountains, which are destitute of regular religious instruction, and some in which the voice of the christian preacher is scarcely ever heard. They are, in a moral sense, laying by the way side, and calling imploringly upon us to perform to them the offices of the good Samaritan. And shall we, can we refuse? Advance, devout young man, advance cheerfully to this field of glory, this labour of love. You have a heart large enough to bear on it the wants of so many fellow beings-rest not, then, till you provide for them the bread which came down from heaven, and give them drink from the water of life. We ask you not to bear the heat and burden of the day, under a burning sun and on a barren soil. We invite you to labour among your kindred and neighbours. We present you a harvest of gratitude, love, esteem and veneration, reaped almost at your door. The soil is not unpromising; it is prepared ground waiting for the good seed; and He who ministers seed to the sower and strengthens the hand of the labourer, will not withhold from the tender blade, the former and latter rain of his grace. Behold, lift up your eyes, the fields are white unto the harvest. With the spirit of patience, gentleness and zeal; with the dauntless courage of a primitive confessor, stand forth amidst ignorance, and raising your fearless voice, proclaim the name of God as the tender Father of his children, and of Jesus Christ as his chosen Son. Apply to moral disease, the healing medicine of truth, and bind human hopes to the throne of God. Is it with you, a question, whether any region, uninstructed in religion, should receive instruction? The answer is short. If obedience to the will of God be necessary to happiness, and knowledge of his will be necessary to obedience, how can he, who withholds this knowledge or delays it, be said to love his neighbour as himself? He that volutarily continues in ignorance, is guilty of all the crimes which ignorance produces, as to him that extinguishes the tapers of a light house, might justly be imputed the calamities of shipwrecks. Pure christianity is the highest perfection of humanity, and as no man is good, but as he wishes the good of others, so no man can be good in the highest degree, who wishes not to others the largest measures of the greatest good. To omit for a year, or for a month, the most efficacious method of advancing christianity, in compliance with any purposes that terminate on this side of the grave, is a crime of which I pray God the world may have no examples.

Ye, then, whose minds are swayed by powerful truth, whose affections are warmed by christian sympathy, and whose hearts are touched with electric zeal, come forth in the cause of suffering thousands, your Saviour is your leader, his apostles are your example, and their God is your strength.

« السابقةمتابعة »